A full-skirted tea dress, embroidered with sunshine-bright floral appliques. A salmon pink cocktail gown with trumpeted, ballooning bell sleeves. A paint-splattered neon green jumpsuit.
This is just a selection of the looks that Melissa McCarthy has been wearing in the past few weeks while she travels the globe promoting her latest film, the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters.
Celebrities having fantastic press tours are nothing new. Remember when Lily James wore exclusively outrageous Princess gowns when she was spruiking Cinderella last year? Right now, as we speak, Alicia Vikander is stunning on a red carpet somewhere in a sleek, Louis Vuitton sequinned sheath, as she promotes Jason Bourne. But these celebrities are both sample sizes. They both have designers clamouring to dress them. They both have the pick of the racks when it comes to red carpet wear.
Melissa McCarthy does not. Not because she isn’t a powerful celebrity – her films have grossed more than $983 million – but because she isn’t sample size.
Usually, when a designer dresses a plus size woman for the red carpet she will be clad in a variation on a theme: a sack dress, an oversized tunic, a sheet stitched up to leave two armholes… all in black or occasionally, if they’re feeling adventurous, navy blue.
The options aren’t great, and it boils down to style advice so often doled out to women who aren’t a sample size. Don’t wear things that are covered in prints (they’ll make you look bigger), don’t wear sheer things (they’ll make you look bigger), don’t wear things with big, fun, feminine, full skirts (they’ll make you look bigger), don’t wear bright things (they’ll make you look bigger), don’t wear things that show skin (they’ll make you look bigger). In short, hide all of your (HUGE) body in a shapeless dress.
Well, Melissa McCarthy officially Does Not Give A F**k about these ridiculous style rules. In the past few weeks she has broken every single one, and looked fantastic while doing it.
Most of the time, she has been wearing designs from her much-lauded Melissa McCarthy Seven7 clothing line, which she launched after another disheartening session surveying the products available for her for red carpet events.
“I’m doing all sizes. It’s a strange thing to stop at a certain size,” she told Women’s Wear Daily about her line. “Women don’t, so why should clothes?”
“I’ll be honest with you, I really feel that women should not limit themselves,” McCarthy’s stylist Judy B. Swartz told The Hollywood Reporter this week. “I’ve seen women come alive in things you wouldn’t think they should wear.”
McCarthy isn't the only star challenging the restrictive body image discourse that surrounds red carpet dressing. Supermodel Ashley Graham has frequently spoken out about the difficulty she faces finding black tie dresses that fit her size 16-18 frame. Bryce Dallas Howard, herself a mere size 10, had to purchase her Jenny Packham Golden Globes’ dress this year off the rack at American department store Neiman Marcus, because no designer stocked samples in her size.
More recently, McCarthy’s Ghostbusters’ co-star Leslie Jones bemoaned the fact that no designers would dress her. She ended up rocking the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere alongside McCarthy in a custom gown designed by Christian Siriano. “It takes a real designer to design for real women,” she said on the red carpet at the time.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.